2017-02-09 / Columns

Outdoors This Week in the Eastern U.P.

By Stephen King

Conditions are cold and snowy. If you haven’t joined all the other snow birds and headed south, there are a whole lot of things happening Outdoors This Week in the EUP.

The fish are biting, and the ice is good.

Carley, at Wilderness Treasures in Pickford, said the fish are biting really good on Munuscong Bay. Lots of walleye and perch, and not so many pike. As expected, they are biting better at dawn and dusk, but in addition, she said, they are biting pretty much all day long. She noted that jigs and spoons are working best, the smaller the better.

The report from K&V grocery in Moran is that fishing is pretty good. They’ve been selling a lot of minnows, and also report that snowmobiling has picked up on the trails.

At Chuck’s Place on Drummond Island, there are happy snowmobilers over there, too. They would be a whole lot happier with a bit more snow, but they are riding. The fish are biting, especially perch, and the ice is good. This is on the north side of the island. The north side is like a big inland lake and freezes over really good. Ice is locked in and stays good, most of the time. On the south side, you might want to have a set of pontoons on your fish shack. Ice is always really iffy there, if there is any at all.

There is good hunting to take advantage of. You can go chase the bunnies, or make the bunnies happy and chase the things that eat the bunnies. This is a great time of the year to hunt predators.

Snowmobile trails are open and in pretty decent shape, with maybe a water hole or two here and there. Those areas to the north that usually have lots of snow, have lots of snow. Those south that are usually a bit skimpy, are probably a bit skimpy.

At the Fish and Hunt Shop in Curtis, they reported trails are pretty good, with one short stretch going out of town that is still closed, due to a wet spot. Overall, trails are in good shape.

Now, for my tip of the week: The portable shack or the pop up? Always a big decision for ice fishermen.

Both have some really good qualities. Both have some issues. I have used both. A lot of it depends how much and where you fish. If you usually fish the same spot in the same lake, day after day, or even weekend after weekend, the permanent home is usually the best bet.

You have to decide what your needs are. Are you spearing? Or are you using hook and line? Are you planning on using tip-ups? Different uses mean different designs for the ice shack. If you are spearing, you need a bigger hole, so your shack will have to be a bit larger. If you are using a hook and line, how many holes do you usually fish? I usually use two, about two or three feet apart. I will explain why another day.

Here is the big question: Are you planning on having company? If you are planning on a friend, spouse, or kids, and plan on doing this regularly, go for the permanent shack. It will be way more comfortable if the shack is big enough, and makes the experience better for everyone.

If the permanent shack is for you, make sure it is big enough, but not too big. You need enough room to be comfortable, but you also have to heat the thing. Hauling a cord or two of firewood out each time just isn’t all that relaxing.

The flip up shacks also have some really good points. First, they don’t freeze in, so there’s no chopping them out. Also, they are mobile. If the fish aren’t biting where you are, move! A few years ago, I remember going out and a few friends were standing in a spot I usually fish. They told me that they had been there for a while and nothing was biting. Instead of joining the gab fest, I moved a couple hundred yards out into deeper water and set a tip-up. Before I even had the pop-up popped up, I had a flag, and a 30+ inch pike. (My buddies had all sorts of words for me not fit for a family newspaper.) But, with the pop-up, I wasn’t stuck in one spot. I was like a turtle — mobile home.

The whole idea is to spend some quality time on the ice, having fun and catching a few fish, in that order.

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